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Winds put 4,500 in dark

Cody Adams uses a chainsaw to clear a fallen tree from Pine Knob Road Photo by Andrea Beaudoin (click for larger version)
November 20, 2013 - Storms ripping through the area Sunday night knocked out power for about 4,500 residents in the Clarkston area.

"We will be working throughout the week to fix the outages," said Scott Simons, Media Relations for DTE Energy.

About 500 houses lost power in Clarkston while Independence Township had about 4,000 outages.

"I'm on Reese and there were trees blocking the path to my house from both directions," said Tracy Lynn, sharing her experiences on the Clarkston News' Facebook page. "Thank goodness for a couple guys with a truck that came down not too far behind me who cleared the way so I could get home!"

"Our power is out, naturally," said Mel Dawes. "I have never heard winds like that in Clarkston. Too dark to see if we've got trees down, but how can we not?"

About 275,000 DTE customers lost power in the entire state, with 70,000 of those customers in Oakland County, Simons said.

According to National Weather Service (NWS) Senior Meteorologist Phil Kurimski, high winds started blowing through the area around 7 p.m. Sunday and continued Monday morning. Most customers in Clarkston lost power between 8-11 p.m., restored by Monday night.

The same storm that blew through Michigan caused a reported 80 tornadoes in the Midwest, mostly in Illinois.

"A low pressure system that tracked through the Great Lakes brought strong winds behind the cold front," said Kurimski.

Temperatures on Sunday registered highest at low to mid 60s and then dropped down to the 40s after the system blew through.

Kurimski said temperatures in the 60s are warm for this time of year. The arrival of a cold front created an unstable atmosphere.

"The cold front acts as a lifting system and lifts air vertically to help create thunderstorms," he said.

Michigan residents can thank the Great Lakes for creating a more stable atmosphere on Sunday than in Illinois.

"The conditions we look for is instability and sheer winds, but yesterday we didn't have instability," said Kurimski. "Although Michigan received the same system that moved through Illinois, that state had more instability than we did not this far north."

The Great Lakes doesn't always protect Michigan, he said.

"When storms encounter Lake Michigan the water is cooler and the air is warmer so it creates a more stable condition in the atmosphere," he said. "(But) the Great Lakes can work both ways – in spring they are warmer than they are in the fall."

Sunday's tornado watch was very unusual for Michigan, he said.

"Only three tornadoes have ever been recorded hitting Michigan in November," said Kurimski.

Along with the high winds, the storm also brought about an inch of rain, lightning and thunder.

"We had several severe weather reports of tress down and downed power lines," said Kurimski.

The NWS gathers reports from several sources including amateur radio operators, the public and law enforcement. Weather spotters take a class and are given a non published phone number to give reports to the NWS.

Operators at the NWS collect reports and if a possible tornado is reported a special team is sent to an area to assess the damage and confirm a possible tornado may have touched down.

Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.
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